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14 tips for aspiring writers from a Kindle top 10 author

13th July 2015

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Kerry Fisher has hit the Kindle bestseller list with her summery novel The Island Escape. Here she offers her tips for aspiring authors…

1. Think twice before trumpeting to the whole world that you’re going to write a novel. Commitment is good, but the next five years of ‘Are you published yet?’ at every social occasion can become a little wearing.

2. Very few people can sit down and just produce a great novel. Learn the craft by taking creative writing courses (try The Writers' Workshop or the online Writers’ Program at the University of California), reading ‘how to’ books and attending writing workshops.

3. Commit to writing a certain number of words a day – whether it’s 100 or 2,000 – and don’t let yourself off the hook. You’ll gain momentum from seeing the manuscript take shape.

4. Listen to conversations all the time. Old and young people, angry discussions, teasing between friends, shop assistants with customers. You’ll find it so much easier to write dialogue.

5. Watch how people stand. Round shouldered at the bus stop. Slouched against a wall at the train station. Bustling and impatient in the supermarket queue. All these details need to be stored away and used to make characters real.

6. Don’t base a character exactly on someone you know – you’ll feel obliged to write them how they really are, rather than in a way that suits the story. Instead, take a single trait – a manner of pausing/a way of whistling when they’re bored/a tendency to sigh when they sit down - and construct the character around that.

7. When you’re sad, angry, happy – whatever emotion you are experiencing – think about how you would convey that on paper while the emotion is fresh.

8. Connect with other authors on Twitter and Facebook, or at writing organisations such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association and university writing groups. It helps to know that all writers experience moments of self-doubt when they don’t know whether they’ve written a masterpiece or 90,000 words of gerbil bedding.

9. Find a writing buddy. If you can swap work with someone whose judgment you respect, you can iron out some of the major issues before your manuscript goes out into the wider world.

10. Be prepared to ‘hear’ your feedback. When a source you trust offers constructive criticism, don’t stick your fingers in your ears and sing. You don’t have to accept everything they say but you’ll progress far more quickly if you allow for the possibility that they might have some valid points.

11. Network. Once you are sure that your novel is the best it can be (edited several times, proofread), give yourself the best chance of finding an agent. Go to writing events, festivals, publishing days, author talks – anywhere where agents hang out. Even if you are too shy to approach an agent at an event, write to them afterwards and say, ‘I saw you speak at XYZ’. They’ll appreciate the fact that you aren’t just emailing the first fifty agents you found in the Writers’& Artists’ Yearbook.

12. Be generous-spirited. Put people in touch with one another, share your tips and industry knowledge. Not everyone will reciprocate but many will. 

13. Persevere. Rejections don’t mean you are hopeless. They’re soul-crushing and joy-sucking and sometimes seem utterly, maddeningly unfair and unjustified, but if you’re serious about getting published, you will get rejected. It’s just part of the process.

14. You can’t sell a book hiding in the cupboard under the stairs. Be brave, take chances, write the best possible book, understand as much as you can about the industry, then pursue every avenue.

Kerry Fisher started out as a self-published author, before the Avon imprint of HarperCollins picked up her debut and republished it as The School Gate Survival Guide last year. Her latest novel, The Island Escape, has been in the top ten of the Amazon Kindle charts for the past three weeks.

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